The Collat School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is enriching its coursework by requiring all students to complete an internship or similar experience prior to graduation. Collat is the first business school in Alabama to make this requirement a part of the curricula.
“Hands-on learning experience is vital for business school graduates,” said Eric Jack, Ph.D., dean of the Collat School of Business. “This step of requiring an internship or similar learning experience demonstrates our commitment to ensuring our students have real, meaningful experience in their field of study and that they are prepared to contribute to the workforce upon graduation.”
Collat works with many local and national employers to provide internship opportunities, and one intent of this new requirement is to strengthen those important relationships within the business community.
“Our internship program is the primary source we use to hire future full-time staff members,” said Sally Bradley, manager at Kassouf & Co. “As a result, we invest significant time and resources each year getting to know students, and we pair them with a department manager in an area best suited to their interests and career goals. Our internship program is designed to provide students with a unique work experience and exposure to our culture. We view our internship program as the first interactions with the future leaders of our firm.”
UAB provides several services to help students secure internships, including internship career fairs, mock interviews through UAB Business Career and Professional Development, internship coordinators for each major, and resume-writing assistance.
UAB’s HireABlazer website helps students find appropriate internships and experiential learning opportunities suited to their areas of study, from accounting to marketing.
This requirement was added to the existing curricula with the intent of maximizing the opportunities students are able to have while in college, and to best prepare them for what follows graduation.
“My professors and advisers in the UAB Collat School of Business have always expressed the importance of taking on internship experiences to supplement in-class discussion with real-world experience,” said Shelby Brownell, a marketing and industrial distribution major who has interned with Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama and Intermark Group. “The main value of taking on an internship, personally, comes from being able to actually experience a profession and some of the entry-level tasks that you’d be taking on after graduation. Being able to ‘try on’ the first step in your career path is such an extremely valuable opportunity because it can really validate that you’re on the right path, or it can encourage you to dig deeper and find your true passion.”
A Professional Development for Today’s Workplace course must be completed prior to the internship. Students gain an understanding of networking, personal branding, career planning, strategic career search, interviewing techniques, salary negotiation and professional etiquette in today’s global workplace.
Ideally, the internship itself should correlate to the course of study that the student is pursuing, in order to provide the best possible experience. Advisers suggest the minimum length of work experience be 12 weeks. Students can choose between a traditional on-the-job internship or experiential learning, which includes activities such as study away programs, service learning projects or business analysis projects, and those who successfully complete the internship or experiential learning requirement earn three hours of credit.
“No doubt, gaining work experience in a developmental internship helps shape students’ perspective on the real word and helps them realize what they want to do and what they may not want to do,” said Michael Lemus, human resources business partner for Bridgestone Commercial Solutions, one of Collat’s internship partners. “I always tell interns to be open to new opportunities that put them outside their comfort zone — that will really help them grow and make the most of the internship experiences.”
“I believe students who take on internships during college will go on to have more fulfilling job experiences, and will become more successful professionals at the companies they will eventually go to work for,” Brownell said.
Additional information about Collat’s internship and experiential learning program can be found online.